Your quadriceps and hamstrings do far more than help you run. In fact, their the most dominant muscles in your thigh, stabilizing your knees and moving the hip and knee joints. These muscles are so large and essential to your daily function, it’s no surprise they need to be strengthened and exercised.
Many times, the hamstrings are weaker than the quads, and that can put gym-goers and athletes of all kinds at a higher risk of injury. Here, you’ll find several hamstring and quadricep workouts you can perform at home to strengthen these muscles without a gym membership.
Where Exactly Are They?
The hamstrings and quadriceps are the dominant thigh muscles. The hamstrings, which include the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris, are found at the back of the thigh. The vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris muscles combine to form the quads, which are located at the front of the thigh.
The hamstring muscles are used to bend the knee and extend the hip, while the quads extend the knee and bend the hip. Both muscle groups work together to stabilize the knees when performing weight-bearing activities.
Why Strengthen the Hamstrings and Quads?
It’s easy to think your hamstrings and quads are already getting enough of a workout. After all, they carry you throughout your day, whether you’re walking, jogging, bending over, taking the stairs or performing countless other activities. However, if one muscle group is stronger than the other or both muscle groups are week, you could be more susceptible to pain and injury.
It’s common for hamstring and quadricep strength to be out of balance, with the quadriceps stronger than the hamstrings. The quads are larger than the hamstrings and are typically used in more daily activities. This imbalance means that many people are at risk of ligament sprains, muscle strains and other injuries. Weaker muscles also get tired more quickly, which means the strength imbalance is even greater while exercising or using those muscles, putting you at an even greater risk.
The solution? Strengthen your hamstrings and exercise your quadriceps to improve the strength ratio between the two. Even better, you’ll tone up your thighs in the process, creating the aesthetic many gym-goers and at-home athletes are seeking.
Top At-Home Exercises for Hamstrings
Strengthening your hamstrings doesn’t have to involve a trip to the gym or costly equipment. These bodyweight exercises will help strengthen your hamstrings, increase leg and hip mobility and improve your hamstring-quad strength ratio.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat involves squatting with one hamstring at a time, unilaterally. Start in a standing position with a bench, chair, box or other solid object behind you. Raise one leg up and back onto the rack or chair. Lower yourself slowly until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Raise back up until your front leg is straight, then repeat the same maneuver with the opposite leg.
Perform the glute bridge from a starting position with your back on the floor, arms to your sides, knees bent and feet roughly 12-16 inches from your rear. With your core tight, squeeze your glutes, push your heels into the floor and lift your hips directly up toward the ceiling. Hold the movement at the top for one or two seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat this motion.
Top At-Home Exercises for Quads
Work toward tighter, stronger and more attractive quad muscles with these at-home calisthenics exercises.
This calisthenics exercise is easy to perform anywhere, without any equipment. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your palms on the back of your head. Lower yourself down in a slow and controlled manor until you reach a squatting position with your rear near the floor. Pause at the bottom, then return to the original standing position.
A pistol squat is an advanced squat variation that works the quads, abs, obliques, glutes and more. Start by standing on one leg with your toes facing forward. Bend your standing leg to lower yourself into a squat position. Your other leg should be extended forward with toes pointing up. Your torso should be leaning slightly forward. Descend into a deep squat position, then push your grounded leg into the floor (with core tight) to raise yourself up to the original standing position. Repeat this motion, then perform the same number of reps on the opposite leg.
This is one of the simplest bodyweight exercises for the quads, because all you need is an empty patch of wall to perform it. Push your back against the wall and lower into a seated position with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Sit up tall with your back flat against the wall. Hold this position for a determined amount of time or until your legs are shaking.
Head outside or into a long hallway to practice your walking lunges, as you’ll need a bit of space for this calisthenics exercise. Take a large step with one leg, dropping your rear knee until it almost touches the ground. Then, rise up and step forward in the same motion with the opposite leg to switch sides.
When to Work the Hamstrings and Quads
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Don’t skip leg day,” but that doesn’t mean leg day is every day. Train your hamstrings and quads at least twice per week (up to four days per week) on non-consecutive days, completing 15 reps of each exercise. If the exercise involves switching legs, be sure to complete at least 15 reps on each side.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I use weights?
The exercises above are all bodyweight exercises; however, weights can be added to lunges, squats, wall sits and more as your legs strengthen.
Who should workout the hamstrings?
Training the hamstrings is essential to maintaining safe and healthy leg strength, and everyone should work these muscles to some extent, depending on age, strength and mobility.